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What do you mean when you call yourself a Christian?
I believe in Jesus of Nazareth, who was in some tangible way that I do not fully understand, sent to atone for sin in the world which had led to separation between God and human beings. I believe Jesus had always been the plan because God loves us so much that nothing could separate us from that love. My identity comes from being Christ’s beloved and so I aim to have my actions and perspectives embody what Christ lived and died for.
When I call myself a Christian, I am signifying to others that I belong to a certain community, the “Church,” even if some parts of the community do not think that I belong to it. It is a community that I feel invested in, and it is a community that I allow to hold me accountable. It is a community that is manifest in the lives of my friends, family, my local church, and various Christian networks; it is a community that orients itself along the axes of the Christian tradition.
I believe that being a Christian means living a life in Christ 'likeness.' I have often been told it is about converting believers or doing good deeds in order to get into heaven but as I have grown into understanding my faith I know that instead, I am striving to give and receive love in the same way Christ does. As a Christian, I am called to love without abandon- to include without restraint- and to serve without question. Living a life that is full of grace, love, and acceptance is how I identify as a Christian.
This is something that's changed for me a lot over the year, but as of today, I say that every day I call myself a Christian, I am committing to see Christ's calling for the whole world and to respond to it. And what do I think that looks like? As David Haas's hymn puts it: "We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God." And yet, it's not what I do on this earth that earns me any standing; it's all the grace of God, through faith in God. Even knowing that, I think our calling is to make life better and live-able for our fellow Earth-dwellers, such that you can see even just a glimpse of the glory of God.
The word Christian admittedly carries a lot of baggage for me. The historical and modern exploitation of our faith tradition for political power has made me reticent to use the word “Christian” to define myself over the years. But, inevitably, I keep coming back to it. I come back to Christianity’s incredible assertion that God would take on flesh and dwell among us. The incarnation and the story of Emmanuel, God with us, is what has ultimately tethered me to the faith. In identifying as a Christian, I am daily reconnecting myself to this beautiful narrative of restoration where God stoops to our level and pours out Her love for us. To be a Christian is to be both a receiver and giver of the love that is made manifest in us through Christ.
For me, being Christian cannot be separated from my call to become a Melkite Catholic Christian. In some ways, being Christian is very simple because my faith and what I believe to be true about God can be found there, but let me try and explain it a little more.
My journey did not begin where I am today. It started in the pews of a congregation that was part of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Every Sunday from childhood, I would be present with my family taking in a Lutheran understanding of Christianity. In high school, much of that came tumbling down as I started to come to terms with my sexuality, and in the course of that, I met my first gay Christian, which led me into the Roman Catholic Church. From there, I was led to the Melkite Catholic Church, where I find myself today.
When I call myself a Christian, I mean that I follow Jesus and that He is a significant person in my life today and helps to inform how I see the world and the decisions I make. Not only do I follow Jesus, but I follow Him in the midst of a group of other followers, and this is commonly called a Church.
Being a part of this Church, I follow Jesus while standing on the shoulders of all those men and women who have followed Him in the past. I do not think that I alone have to find the answers about who Jesus is and what message He has given the world. I acknowledge that many of these answers have been passed down to me in the Bible, prayers, creeds, councils, and other writings.
I recognize a call to accept as true the historic creeds of the Christian faith. I believe in a God who is triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). I acknowledge the Bible to be the inspired word of God. It also means that I accept and hold to be true everything that has been passed down to me from previous generations and declared to be true by the Church of which I am a part.
In all of this, I recognize my need for the Church and for what the Church offers to me in word and sacraments. The Church also reminds me that there are other human beings who need support and love. I consider every human being to be made in the Image of God and have value because of that. There also is a call to reach out and minister to my fellow human beings, both inside and outside the Church.
To me, being a Christian means accepting and working to implement Christian ethics in my life and helping and supporting others to do the same, while respecting the freedom of conscience of each person.
Ultimately for me, being Christian is recognizing that God is Love and that Love will save the world and rescue us from the darkness we encounter in our own minds and in the actions of our fellow human beings. It is knowing that the story did not end with suffering and death but with resurrection, and we will all share in that resurrection someday.
When I call myself a Christian, I mean that I believe in the Divine, not as a human-like being, but as entity, the creator of the human world and love. To me being a Christian means that I am culturally home in the progressive Christian community and that I enjoying using Christian scriptures to help me navigate my ethical life.